James Clementi, brother of Tyler Clementi, who is also gay, read an impact statement at the courthouse right before Dharun Ravi’s sentencing.
James’s statement will resonate with many young LGBT people who are victims of bullying.
“Dharun did his research online weeks before he ever moved into that room and met Tyler in person. He discovered that Tyler was gay and based on this, dismissed Tyler as unworthy of kindness, acceptance, as a person worth getting to know, and decided instead that he was someone who deserved to be laughed at, picked on and violated.”
Your Honor, I am not the victim of any crime committed by Dharun Ravi – but my family and I have been impacted by the crimes committed against my late brother, Tyler Clementi, and I believe I have personal insights into the way that Mr. Ravi’s crimes impacted upon my brother, and what my brother was forced to endure in his brief weeks at Rutgers University.
May 22nd, will be the twenty month anniversary of my brother’s passing. In the past twenty months of my life, not only have I had to live with a despair and sadness that has crept into every part of my life and my being, I have also been forced to observe and be silent. Observe while the media picked apart every bit of my brother’s final days and his mindset. Observe while many members of the press sought to justify the unacceptable and criminal behavior of Mr. Ravi. Observe throughout the trial the lies that Mr. Ravi’s defense team cooked up in a further violation and disrespect to my brother’s memory. I watched as Dharun slept through court, as though it was something not worth staying awake for. I listened while Dharun and his defense attorneys laughed together, as though there was a private joke in the courtroom that I and my family were not aware of. And through it all, I listened and bit my tongue. The truth is that from the moment a computer randomly selected Tyler and Dharun to live together, my brother’s fate was sealed. I spoke with Tyler often in the days leading up to his leaving for Rutgers. He was excited and looking forward to the experience of going away to school. He was a brilliant student, a talented and kind person who would never do anything to hurt another person. He could never have known the viper’s nest he was walking into, nor could anyone in my family have imagined a situation so horrible and cruel that he would need to be protected from.
With Dharun Ravi as his roommate, my brother never stood a chance of having a happy and comfortable first semester at college. Dharun did his research online weeks before he ever moved into that room and met Tyler in person. He discovered that Tyler was gay and based on this, dismissed Tyler as unworthy of kindness, acceptance, as a person worth getting to know, and decided instead that he was someone who deserved to be laughed at, picked on and violated. Even before they had ever met each other in person, Dharun was beginning his plot to bully my brother. He thought he had found the perfect target in Tyler Clementi, and just because the situation that he created of his own doing spun further out of control then he would have wanted it to, does not absolve him of legal responsibility for the laws he broke. Nor, in my mind, does it absolve him of the moral responsibility for the human being he broke down. It must be easier to objectify, deride, and humiliate someone if you see them as less than yourself and the friends you are trying to impress, and there is no doubt in my mind that Dharun never saw Tyler as truly a person, only an object of ridicule that he could use to show off his computer abilities and gain some new friends in the process. While Dharun may never truly be able to grasp the pain and fear he pushed into Tyler’s heart, I will never be able to stop thinking about it.
Tyler’s final days and hours were filled with fear, shame, and a despair so great it ripped him away from me forever. His last moments consisted of knowing that the intimate details of his life were announced to the world on Twitter, that his roommate who had given him a reasonable expectation of privacy in their room had filmed a sexual encounter and broadcast it to an unknown number of people, many of whom were in the dorm that he lived in, and that his roommate planned to do it again. He knew that not one person who was aware of these things spoke out in his support, or approached him to offer any kindness. I cannot imagine the level of rejection, isolation and disdain he must have felt from all of his peers. Of course it was reasonable for him to think that he was targeted for his sexual orientation. What other reason would Dharun Ravi have had to treat him so cruelly? What offense had Tyler ever done to him?
Dharun Ravi has never shown any remorse, regret, sorrow, guilt, compassion, or humility. He only bothered to apologize to my brother once – through a text message, sent hours after Tyler had gone missing, and only after he realized he might be in legal trouble. In this fake and insincere apology designed to cover his tracks, he dismisses his criminal behavior as a “petty misunderstanding,” never seeming to grasp that Tyler, as the victim of a crime, is the one who gets to decide what it was and how he feels about it. It is Dharun’s arrogance, his belief that his perception of the damage he did or didn’t do is all that matters – that the perception and pain of his victim is insignificant if he says so – that has frustrated me throughout this process. Mr. Ravi and his defense rejected the notion that a crime of bias intimidation had occurred because they were only concerned with Mr. Ravi’s perspective. If they had ever bothered to put themselves in Tyler’s shoes, it would have been unmistakable to them that a bias crime had occurred. Dharun never bothered to care about the damage he was doing to Tyler’s heart and mind; that was inconsequential compared to the fun Mr. Ravi was seeking at the expense of my brother’s dignity and wellbeing.
Indeed I have often found myself wondering if Dharun Ravi is even capable of empathizing with another person. Nothing in his behavior during the time he lived with my brother, or since his death, suggests this to be true. My family has never heard an apology, an acknowledgement of any wrongdoing, and remorse for the person who isn’t here. The behavior I saw in the courtroom, combined with an interview on the television news program 20/20, suggests a complete lack of concern for my brother or the pain inflicted on him. Mr. Ravi appears untroubled in any way by what he did, how he made my brother suffer. To be honest there is a time when an apology would have actually meant something to me, but now it is clear that anything of the sort would be empty, rehearsed words, spoken without empathy.
In his 20/20 interview, Dharun Ravi states, “I feel like I was an insignificant part to his life. That’s giving me comfort now.” What reasonable, feeling person could look at the facts of this case and come to such a conclusion? The total lack of compassion and shifting of blame for his own actions seeps through every word Ravi speaks about his crimes. How can he think that he was an “insignificant part” of my brother’s life when he knows that his Twitter profile was the last thing Tyler saw on his computer before deciding to end his life? For so long I have craved to hear some small amount of recognition, awareness, and humanity from Mr. Ravi. I have had to accept that this likely will never happen. But I have found a level of comfort in listening to Middlesex County Prosecutors Julia McClure, Chris Shellborne and Bruce Kaplan fighting for my brother’s dignity in the courtroom. I often felt during the trial that Ms. McClure was Tyler’s champion, that she fought each day to ensure his voice be heard and that the crimes he was victimized by not be ignored. The Prosecutor’s office worked hard to do this, because although it is too late to save Tyler, a precedent must be set to ensure that all bullies will know that the second their behavior crosses the line of criminality, they will be prosecuted. I have found vindication in knowing that an unbiased jury with no preconceived notion of this case or the players involved, was able to see past the lies and understand the heart of what happened. I hold these small comforts close and with gratitude, but there is nothing that can ease the pain of my loss. I love my brother, and I will mourn for him every day for the rest of my life. I ask only for fairness and justice. I ask that the gravity of Dharun Ravi’s crimes not be ignored.
Watch the video: Clementi’s brother speaks at Ravi’s sentencing